Who goes No. 1 in the NBA Draft?

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If you had asked “Who is going No. 1 in the 2011 NBA draft?” before the college basketball season started, the consensus was North Carolina’s freshman Harrison Barnes.

Except Barnes is shooting 38.2 percent this season and 29.3 percent from three. He has not lived up to the hype and is sliding down the boards (although not far, DraftExpress has him at No.3).

Replacing him in the consensus top spot was Kyrie Irving of Duke, the freshman handling the decisions for the nation’s number one team. He is shooting 45.2 percent from three and 58.7 percent inside the arc. He looks like the kind of point guard that can run an NBA team.

Except Coach Mike Krzyzewski announced on his “Basketball and Beyond with Coach K” show on XM Radio this week that Irving may out for the season with a toe injury. Which is likely to hurt his draft stock.

So who is No. 1?

(Yes, there will be a draft even if there is a lockout. The draft at the end of June comes before the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, no draft pick can be signed until after July 1 — when the lockout will happen — so they will live in a bit of limbo.)

Predicting now is a bit of guesswork, this was always a pretty wide-open class and recent performances have made it more so. The smart money now is on Perry Jones of Baylor. The power forward has long been considered maybe the best long-term prospect in the class because GMs always love bigs. He has been good but not “nobody is taking the top spot from me” good so far.

So guys like Kentucky’s newest greatest freshman Terrence Jones or overseas players such as Jonas Valenciunas or almost-Kentucky player (except he played as a pro already) Enes Kanter have a shot.

Basically, it’s wide open. This season the draft has quality but not the clear-cut, John Wall type of “this guy is No. 1 no question” type of guy.

Which has positives for us fans — this season, the games (and post-season workouts) will matter more than ever. Just don’t be too sure about who is the top pick.

Hawks sign two-way Tyler Cavanaugh to standard contract

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ATLANTA (AP) — Rookie forward Tyler Cavanaugh, who originally came to Atlanta on a two-way contract, has signed a multi-year deal with the Hawks.

Cavanaugh has averaged 5.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 19 games, including one start, since signing the two-way contract on Nov. 5.

Cavanaugh, from Syracuse, New York, played two seasons at Wake Forest before transferring to George Washington, where he averaged 18.3 points and 8.4 rebounds last season. He was selected the National Invitation Tournament Most Outstanding Player in 2016 after leading the Colonials to the NIT title.

 

Carlos Boozer announces retirement

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Carlos Boozer went from being known as a gritty second-rounder to an overpaid defensive liability.

In some ways, that’s the ultimate success story.

Now, after playing last season in China, he’s walking away.

Boozer on ESPN:

I’m officially retired.

The Cavaliers drafted Boozer with the No. 35 pick in the 2002. After he spent a couple productive seasons in Cleveland, the Cavs declined his cheap team option to make him a restricted free agent – with an agreement he’d re-sign at a reasonable rate if you ask them, with no handshake deal if you ask him.

Boozer bolted for the Jazz, who gave him a six-year, $68 million contract. He made a couple All-Star teams and helped Utah reach the conference finals.

Then, he went to Chicago on a five-year, $75 million contract after the Bulls struck out on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010. The Derrick Rose-led Bulls never broke through, and Boozer was often the scapegoat.

Chicago amnestied him, and he spent his last NBA season with the Lakers three years ago.

Boozer was a pretty good player paid like a very good one, and that didn’t endear him. We mostly remember him for accidentally punching a referee below the belt:

Painting on hair:

And yelling “and one!” after nearly every shot.

For a while, it seemed the 36-year-old Boozer wanted to play another NBA season. But he finally could no longer find a front office eager to pay him.

It’s only fitting that he was denied that last “and one!”

Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis still not talking off court

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The Bulls are 5-0 since Nikola Mirotic returned from an injury suffered when Bobby Portis punched him in the face during a preseason practice. Mirotic and Portis are both excelling individually, and Chicago has outscored opponents by a whopping 34.3 points per 100 possessions when those two share the court.

Jack Maloney of CBSSports.com:

When asked if the two former combatants have spoken yet, Mirotic said, “We did on the floor. We’ve always spoken because we need to have good communication.” As for whether they’ve talked off the floor, however, Mirotic was succinct in his response: “No.”

I guess Mirotic hasn’t completely moved on, though he said he did. But that’s fine. How could someone get past a teammate punching him in the face?

Importantly, this is becoming just a regular NBA problem. The extent of that practice punch was practically unprecedented. But plenty of players have loathed teammates while making it work on the court. That happens more than people realize.

Mirotic and Portis can make this their status quo – at least the on-court cooperation. I’m not convinced Chicago will keep winning like this.

Watch Kobe Bryant’s ‘Dear Basketball’ short film (video)

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Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in a letter called “Dear Basketball,” which was made into a short film.

Now, on the day the Lakers retire his Nos. 8 and 24, you can watch it. It’s quite beautiful: